In today’s image-obsessed culture, many of us worry about putting on weight or wish we looked different or could fix something about ourselves. That’s only human. But if a preoccupation with being thin has taken over your eating habits, thoughts, and life, you may have the serious eating disorder, anorexia nervosa.
Anorexia can result in unhealthy, often dangerous weight loss. In fact, the desire to lose weight may become more important than anything else. You may even lose the ability to see yourself as you truly are. While it is most common among adolescent women, anorexia can affect women and men of all ages and is characterized by a refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image.
You may try to lose weight by starving yourself, exercising excessively, or using laxatives, vomiting, or other methods to purge yourself after eating. Thoughts about dieting, food, and your body may take up most of your day—leaving little time for friends, family, and other activities you used to enjoy. Life becomes a relentless pursuit of thinness and intense weight loss. But no matter how skinny you become, it’s never enough.
Restricting type of anorexia is where weight loss is achieved by restricting calories (following drastic diets, fasting, exercising to excess).
Purging type of anorexia is where weight loss is achieved by vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics.
The intense dread of gaining weight or disgust with how your body looks, can make eating and mealtimes very stressful. And yet, food and what you can and can’t eat is practically all you can think about. But no matter how ingrained this self-destructive pattern seems, there is hope. With treatment, self-help, and support, you can break the self-destructive hold anorexia has over you, develop a more realistic body image, and regain your health and self-confidence.